I've already talked about making money off of eggs, but what about chickens for meat?
I'm a big fan of low feed to weight conversion animals, and you can't beat chickens. Pound for pound, there is no other farm animal that can beat chickens feed conversion, and one of the best converters is the Cornish Cross breed. While I'm a fan of heritage breeds in general, this cross breed chicken has a conversion rate of 3.5 to 1 which is very impressive.
So before we get down to the numbers, you will need to consider your setup and the costs associated with it. If you get straight run chickens, you'll need a place to incubate the eggs and then keep them warm and safe to start them out before taking them outside.
Once they are ready to be outside you'll need to consider if you want them in a stationary coop, in a free range pen with electric poultry netting, or in chicken tractors.
Now for the numbers.
I'm going to use a 25 bird flock for these two examples. Example 1 is in a stationary pen area and Example 2 is in a chicken tractor which allows a supplement of 25% feed with forage. Stromberg's sells the Cornish Rock Cross straight run at a minimum order of 25 birds at $2.68 a bird or $67
Example 1: Stationary coop or pen area
Your birds need a 22% protien crumble for the first 4 weeks of their lives and a 16% to 18% protien pellets for the last 4 weeks. My local farm store sells these in 40 Lb bags for $14.99 and $12.89 respectively. Each bird eats approximately 3.9 lbs a week. 25 birds eat 97.5 pounds per week for 4 weeks. 25 x 3.9 = 97.5 x 4 = 390 / 40 = 9.75 bags. 10 bags of starter is $149.90 and the 10 bags of grower is $128.90.
So you total feed cost is $278.80 or $11.15 per bird
Example 2: Chicken tractor with forage
Same cost for feed per bags above, but only needing 75% of the feed leaves you at 8 bags of each for a cost of $119.92 and $103.12 or a total feed cost of $223.04 or $8.92 per bird.
I've seen people quoting prices of $15 to $25 per whole chicken, so if we take the median average of $20 per bird, we end up with a gross profit of #1 $6.17 or #2 $8.40 per bird.
If you start your meat bird cycle on April 1st, and go till early October, that gives you 23 cycles of 8 weeks. If you only did 25 birds per 8 week cycle, you could make in example #1 $3547.75 and in example #2 $5129. Nobody's getting rich off of this single model, but as one piece of the big picture, this could definitely be a great part of your farm model.
You may be able to reduce the feed costs by shopping around, or buying in bulk from a farm store that mix their own feed. You can also decrease your purchase price per bird by buying larger quantities. Don't forget the costs of building your coops, pens or chicken tractors, gas to go get feed, time it takes to feed, water and move tractors, and butchering time.
Speaking of butchering time, I would strongly suggest to look into the scalding and defeathering equipment to reduce butchering time. And don't forget to check you local laws about butchering and sales of meat before you begin.
So to answer the question, is their money in raising meat birds? Yes there is, but you'll need to find a market to sell them to, and you'll probably need to raise more than 25 per cycle to make this venture worth your while. For a homestead farmer, I would never rely on just one line of business for my farm. Additionally, if you are pasturing your chickens, you might want to consider running their tractors in pastures where cows or pigs have already been because multi species pasturing will mimic nature.